To Carry the Cross in Our Hearts and the Resurrection on Our Faces

By Anna O’Connell, Communications and Outreach Manager for Heart’s Home USA

It has been said that Heart’s Home missionaries carry the cross in their hearts and wear the Resurrection on their faces. When I arrived in Lima, Peru for a seventeen month mission with Heart’s Home, I had no idea what that would come to mean. I knew only that I had a deep desire to seek God, accompany those who are suffering, and give myself completely to God and others. And I knew that God had called me to mission. So I went.

I was welcomed into a home with several other young adults from around the world – Argentina, Poland, France, Ukraine, Germany, and El Salvador. In a developing neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima, we lived as our neighbors do, entering into their lives. Our daily rhythm was built around morning prayer, daily Mass, an hour of Eucharistic adoration, rosary with the neighborhood children, evening prayer, and night prayer. At the center of everything was Christ, present in the chapel in our house.

As I searched for God, I found myself looking into the eyes of little nine year-old Esperanza as she tried to “puppy dog face” me into giving her some chocolate, the eyes of Abuela Lily as she laid in her bed and contemplated the ceiling, the eyes of Jasmine as they darted back and forth to the same rate as her confused, mentally ill thoughts…  Christ became concrete. And continually knocked on our door. Our house was always full of children asking for water or wanting to help cook, friends stopping by for a conversation or to join us in prayer, teenagers and young adults seeking a place to be seen and valued, or a neighbor coming to lend us a pot and then stay for lunch. We welcomed them all. And in return, they welcomed us! We spent each afternoon playing with the neighborhood children or visiting our friends who were bedridden, sick, imprisoned, abandoned, elderly, alone, disabled, in difficult family situations, or suffering in some way. Through friendship, we sought to bear their crosses with them – and offer them hope.


“Abrazala! Abrazala! Y da la vuelta, da la vuelta…” (“Hug her! Hug her! And turn her, turn her…”)

All of our muscles engaged as we supported Carolina, lowering her out of the bed and slowly maneuvering her feet in a circle until –woosh– she landed in the wheelchair! We let out a breath, but the beads of perspiration remained on our foreheads. I gazed at Carolina – her brows furrowed together, eyes darting back and forth, hands quivering – and a small smile splayed across her lips. She is battling cancer, a deadly cancer that doesn’t like to give up easily. But neither does Carolina. Amidst all of the many different doctor appointments, long lines, lengthy car rides, slow, cautious maneuvering of her body, and uncertainty, she clings to Christ.

“Abrazar la cruz (Hug the cross),” I have been told. The words remain pasted in my mind. The hug has ended, but the cross remains.


“Open the Bible! Open the Bible! Flip to a random page and read us what it says!” The eight expectant faces of Carolina’s family looked up at me as they waited for me to participate in their family tradition and share some of God’s wisdom with them. It was Christmas Eve and we were all crammed into Carolina’s house. I couldn’t tell which was brighter – the tiny lights on their nativity scene or the eyes of each person in that room.

I took the Bible, flipped it open, and began to read, “Then Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me’” (Luke 22:19)

Carolina took the panetón Christmas bread and separated it into pieces. Likewise, she took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22:20). Her husband Felipe poured the wine.

There was a moment of communal recognition – the Gospel had come to life, been made concrete in that moment. And then we all laughed – no need for me to share a deep reflection! The meaning of the passage was quite clear. Christ, in the moments before his greatest suffering, gathered with his beloved friends, shared a meal with them, and gave Himself to them. And he continues to give himself to us each day. Through the Eucharist, he gives us the strength to then do the same – to give ourselves to others. To bear the cross together. To stand in hope. To carry the cross in our hearts and the Resurrection on our faces.

If you’d like more information about Heart’s Home USA and our mission, you can contact Natalia Fassano, Director of the Missionary Program, at [email protected]. You can also check out our website at, follow us on Instagram @heartshomeusa, or find us on Facebook.